WARREN - World War II Army veteran Tom Vouvounas remembers well the fateful day of the Pearl Harbor attack Dec. 7, 1941.
"We were very sad, very surprised and very mad that this happened," the Warren man recalled, explaining the prime minister of Japan was in Washington, D.C., at the time of the attack.
"They had played a dirty trick," he said.
Veterans and supporters gathered Friday to hear Vouvounas, 96, speak during the Pearl Harbor Remembrance held at First Presbyterian Church of Warren.
"I am the United States of America. I was born on July 4, 1776, and the Declaration of Independence is my birth certificate," Vouvounas said during his speech, which he titled "I am America."
"Yes, I am your nation ... I was conceived in freedom and, God willing, in freedom I will spend the rest of my days," he said.
Roger Gardner of Trumbull County Honor Guard lights a candle during the POW / MIA table ceremony on Friday during the Pearl Harbor remembrance held at First Presbyterian Church in Warren. The candle symbolizes the upward reach of their unconquerable spirit.
Navy veteran and pastor David Luther gave the invocation, and the Trumbull County Honor Guard led the audience in the Pledge of Allegiance, performing the POW / MIA table ceremony as well as the playing of taps.
The local remembrance has been held for the past 10 years, and was initiated by Robert Brothers of the Trumbull County Veterans Service Commission.
"I think it's necessary. It's like breathing," Brothers said of honoring veterans. Brothers is a veteran himself, having served during the Korean War, and also is a member of the Trumbull County Honor Guard.
Navy veteran Cari Delgado of the veterans service commission, who organizes the event, said this is the first year the ceremony hasn't had a Pearl Harbor survivor in attendance.
The number of attendees also has dwindled over the past several years.
Luther, however, attended for the first time this year, although he is no stranger to ceremonies honoring vets.
"It has a special meaning to me," he said, having once been stationed close to Pearl Harbor.
June Fitch of Warren, whose late husband served in the Army during the Korean War, said all veterans hold a special place in her heart.
"I'm so proud of these men that served our country," she said.
Vouvounas, who was gravely injured in the Battle of Normandy and hospitalized in England for 7 months, married his wife, Helen, after being discharged in 1945. Together they had nine children, and Vouvounas said he is thankful that he is alive to share his story.
"We don't know how long our old World War II veterans are going to be alive," said Air Force veteran Ralph McMillan of Cortland. "We've got to give them all the support we can" - out of respect, not just duty, he said.